The ancient shores of the French Riviera have always held great attraction for Picasso. After his first visit to Juan-les-Pins in 1920, he often returned there to spend the season, combining recreation with work. The summer before the outbreak of World War II he stayed at Antibes, where in August he painted a remarkable visionary life-size canvas, Night Fishing at Antibes. Sabartés, who was with him in those anxious days, has described the unusual method Picasso adopted for this painting. He began by covering three walls of his studio with canvas, and trimmed it down to size only after he had painted it.
The monumental composition shows two girls standing on a stone jetty at the right; one of them is holding a bicycle and eating an ice cream cone. To the left of these girls, who are painted in somewhat smaller scale, two fishermen in a boat are spearing fish by the light of a lantern. The fantastic charm of this nocturne is based on the felicitous combination of the effects of light with nocturnal colors, ranging from black, through blue, various ghostly greens, and a murky brown, to a dark violet.
This violet, which is used for the view of the town and Castle of Antibes in the upper left-hand corner of the picture, here strikes for the first time, on the eve of the war, a coloristic note that will recur many times in the oppressive years to come. The pale flesh color of the human figures glows between the warm radiance of the lamps and the cool brightness of the fish. The coloring clearly reveals the Spaniard; the magic light suggests the inspiration of El Greco; the singleness of mood is compelling; figures and landscape are in perfect harmony. Among Picasso's few nocturnes one, dating from 1951, represents his garden at Vallauris; it too combines artifical illumination and starlight.
In the summer of 1946, Picasso went from Ménerbes to La Garoupe, where he stayed at a friend's villa. On September 8, during one of his visits to the bcach of Golfe Juan, he met Dor de la Souchére, director of the museum of Antibes. This proved to be a historic meeting. De la Souchére expressed a desire to have something of Picasso's in his museum, and the artist, in a pleasant mood, immediately agreed. The result was' one of the happiest, most productive, and ingratiating phases of his artistic career. The fortunate coincidence that De la Souchére happened to have a large supply of fiberboard on hand, which suited perfectly the large compositions Picasso was planning then, led to the creating of a unique Picasso museum which is already a legend and has become a goal for devotees of modern art.
Picasso soon decided to move into the museum, giving up the comforts of the villa. A studio with everything he needed for his work was set up for him in a large hall on the second story. The considerate director even went on a trip so that Picasso could familiarize himself, undisturbed, with his new abode. Everything about it was indeed unusual. For the socalled Musée Grimaldi is situated in the old Castle of Antibes, whose little acropolis has been settled since prehistoric times. Later a Roman castle stood there; then the place was occupied by bishops; in 1386 it became the property of the Genoese family Grimaldi. They sold it to King Henry IV, and for a long time it served as the residence for royal governors.
Old things and houses have always fascinated Picasso (incidentally, the building in the Rue des Grands-Augustins in Paris, in which he has maintained a studio since 1937, is a seventeenth-century palace). Gertrude Stein was certainly right when she said that Picasso, who always ventures in new directions, finds inner peace in old things; his "classicism" may be similarly accounted for. The venerable museum at Antibes with its sunny terrace and cool inner court, situated on an elevation overlooking the coast, offers an exciting mixture of the past and the present. Its collections of ancient stone monuments on the ground floor have been placed under the same roof (occasionally even in the same room) with Picasso's works, most of which are on the upper floor. The museum thus presents us with a tangible proof of the vitality of Mediterranean art and of its mysterious continuity: for the ultimate, the hair-roots of Picasso's art reach down into the same deep strata which nourished the art of Antiquity.
Picasso's Guernica anticipated the horrors of World War II; La joie de vivre, the main work of his Antibes period, testifies to his inner liberation from the oppressive gloom of the war years. In Guernica, women symbolized the agony of war victims; after the hostilities, women symbolize the joy of living. In a literal and figurative sense, women are the central motif of Picasso's works of 1946, which may be described in their aggregate as a glorification of woman.
This new attitude toward the world of the senses, and toward woman as its highest embodiment, was not sudden; its beginnings are discernible in works executed during the war. A large pencil drawing of December 1943, which portrays a woman in an armchair attended by a maid, is completely under the spell of fairy-tale loveliness and fancy. The sword lying on the floor in the foreground is the only object reminiscent of the symbolic sheets of the 1930s; its owner, however, is no longer a female matador, but a truly feminine princess. Similar marvelous nude figures can be found among the works of June 1944: continuing the classical drawings of the 1920s, they glorify the soft, full, fluid lines of the feminine form.
Finally, there are the eighteen different states of a lithograph showing a seated and a reclining nude, executed in December 1945 and January 1946. The main motifs of this work reappear later in boldly abstract pencil drawings. In one of these, dated February 10, 1946, the legs of the woman sitting in front of the screen, the double curve of her hair and breasts, as well as the arms of the reclining figure, are only indicated by lines that seem to be made of thin, flexible wire; but with such calligraphic grace that they are an eloquent expression of femininity.
While the works leading up to Guernica are interrelated thematically, those announcing La joie de vivre reflect predominantly formal concerns. Thus, a new form of graphic abstraction is embodied in eight charming variations on a nude, dated January 13, 1946. The technique used here is a combination of cutouts and lithography. The little figures acquire a vegetable, indeed a flower-like, quality; and in a painting finished on May 5, 1946, Picasso seems to have aimed deliberately at the metaphor woman-flower, so consistently are the parts of the woman's body arranged asymmetrically as stem, blossom, leaves, and fruits. The forms are so intricately constructed that one is tempted to compare them to wire flowers. And yet this is not a toy-like miniature, but a picture of considerable dimensions!
As Antaeus' strength was restored by contact with the earth, Picasso's imagination was repeatedly refreshed by contact with nature. At the age of fifty-six Picasso found in Françoise a fountain of youth. But in his variations on a nude dated Paris, June 22, 1946, he is by no means dependent on his model. With obvious sensuous pleasure and delight in the elegance of the contours, the painter varies the proportions of waist and buttocks, and playfully produces incredible contrasts. He gives us the feeling that he drew these graceful figures so effortlessly that he could have gone on endlessly creating further variations. A few days later he explored another, abstract, aspect of the same theme by representing the woman standing with her arms joined above her head in purely geometric linear structures, mostly in terms of intersecting triangles.
The following day, June 29, working directly from nature, he tested this abstract system in the twocolor lithograph of two pigeons. The outlines of the birds, particularly the triangles indicating wings and tails, do not coincide in the violet-red and the gold-yellow plates; the motif and the direction of the lines diverge strongly. But when the plates are printed one on top of the other, a vibrant, restless animation is achieved, which the beholder experiences as movement. A similar effect is produced by the nude figure of June 28, which throbs feverishly in comparison with the five nudes of the drawing of June 22.
During this very fruitful June in Paris, Picasso painted his first large mythological canvas, The Rape of Europa. After a very abstract preliminary version, he did the subject in highly simplified, monumental forms of almost ponderous plasticity. Only after renewed contact with his Mediterranean roots during the coming months at Antibes was Picasso to bring such subjects fully to life. Still, these Parisian studies prepared the way in both format and technique for the creations at Antibes.
Not only the importance of the female body in these Antibes works, but also their bucolic and Bacchic themes can be traced back to the war years. To begin with, we have a watercolor and gouache version of Poussin's Bacchanale in the Louvre. The fact that Picasso painted it during the battle of Paris is of truly symbolic significance. On the one hand, this great work of the past provided the same sense of security as the close dependence on nature in his other works of that time; on the other hand, his choice of precisely this picture for copying heralds a turn to relaxation and exuberance after his obsessive imagery of the war years; once again life wins out over death. In his free copy of the Triumph of Pan, Picasso remains faithful, on the whole, to the individual figures and motifs of the model; but he has translated the original forms and colors into his own idiom. Surrealistically distorted and classical forms are charmingly, sometimes humorously combined. One of the figures at the center of this picture, the macnad in the billowing, violet drapery who beats the tambourine, clearly anticipates La joie de vivre.
Toward the end of August 1946, Picasso worked on a three-figure composition, which in a sense synthesizes the Bacchanale motifs and earlier formal experiments recorded in various sketches, such as the drawing of June 28 and the Two Pigeons. Each of the sheets done in August shows the maenad with the tambourine at the center, and a flute-playing faun to the right; the figure at the left varies, frequently being a faun performing a handstand. La joie de vivre, a large canvas measuring 47¼ by 98½ inches, which Picasso began after moving to the museum of Antibes, is a direct continuation of these sketches. The importance, of this work—and this is true of all the Antibes works—lies in the fact that these mythological themes are not intended as some kind of classical revival, but are Picasso's intuitions, through which the Mediterranean spirit speaks to our own age. Or, to use psychological terms, Picasso's art succeeds in transforming archetypes of the collective unconscious into visible and understandable symbols. An exuberant wealth of forms emerges in Antibes and comes to life in the pictures: fauns, nymphs, and centaurs vie with each other in playing boisterous games with young goats.
The timeless mythological world which now definitively supplants the grandiose allegories of terror—a world of peace and beauty succeeding the world of war and ugliness—requires a monumental scale such as that required by the historical Guernica. Picasso made no special preliminary studies for La joie de vivre, as he had for Guernica: this time he developed his idea almost entirely on the canvas itself, and the successive states were photographed by Michel Sima. Here—just as in the sketches executed in August—two large male figures flank the dancing maenad: the faun playing a flute has remained, but the other faun has become a centaur, who also plays a musical instrument. Between them now there are two young, leaping goats, and the scene has been transferred to the edge of the sea, on which a sailboat drifts by.
As we know, Picasso has always been fascinated by the theme of the dance: dancers appear as early as 1905 in his etchings of Salome and in various circus scenes; in 1917 Picasso was closely associated with the Diaghilev dancers, one of whom he married in 1918, and through his work as stage designer he remained associated with them during the years that followed. Groups of dancers, treated cubistically or classically, appear time and again in the twenties, as in the Three Dancers, of 1925, where an ecstatic dancing nude also dominates the design. After a visit to a circus in 1933, three acrobatic dancers once again struck Picasso's imagination: they bear a sisterly likeness to the figures on the beach of the year before. This trio is related to the three figures in On the Beach painted at Dinard in 1928, whose landscape background of few strong colors—the yellow of the sand, the deep blue of the sea, the light sky, and the dark rocks —anticipates the scenery of La joie de vivre.. Thus, like Guernica, the great Antibes painting crystallizes a number of motifs that can be traced back to earlier periods; and like Guernica it is an authentic artistic revelation.
To illustrate the changes revealed in the successive stages of this painting, we shall now consider different states of the maenad. This figure, as it appears in the initial state, is strikingly similar to the abstractions of the lithograph of January 13 and to the "wireflower" woman of the painting of May 5, 1946. Later it becomes more naturalistic, its color is enriched, and its movement differentiated through the addition of feet. (The figure of the goat is similarly changed and becomes more lifelike and more expressive.) In the end the figure, originally robed, has become a nude; all that remains of her garment is a kind of veil indicated by the fluttering ends on top. This nude was unmistakably influenced by the full-breasted women with exaggerated, narrow waists sketched in June; but the buttocks are shown in a different view, in the Cubist manner. The forms of the arm and of the tambourine, which were originally round, are angular in the final version. The reason for this change becomes apparent once we examine the changes in the other figures and in the composition as a whole.
Sima published six different states of the flute-playing faun, where the initial geometric form was supplanted by an intermediate, more naturalistic one and finally by a very different, definitive form. The scenery has undergone a similar transformation. The dark foothill that originally formed the background on the right has been eliminated except for the horizon indicated by the boat, so that the outstretched upper body of the faun is set off against the light-blue sky. In the final state the curiously slender figure of this faun is echoed in the graceful little tree at the right.
The lower body of the centaur at the left, initially very block-like, has become organic, filled with latent movement, and like the body of the maenad is shown in several views. The centaur has not gone through the same transformations as the other figures; only his upper body with its long neck and little head has been readjusted with an eye to the changes in the faun.
The original scenery showed a mountain range silhouetted at the right. Later the landscape parts were largely eliminated, and in the final version the bodies of the figures are placed, frieze-like, between the earth and the horizon. This "horizon" is not conceived abstractly, but yields to the spatial impulses that emanate from the figures. There is no sharp line of demarcation between the two zones, and the upper bodies of the three main figures are distinct, and clearly interrelated, against the background of the sky. Now we call see why the originally round arms of the macnad have been replaced by angular ones in the final version: the change was necessary because after the elimination of the mountain range, angular forms appeared only in the sailboat.
The plant at the lower left which is unsubstantial in the definitive state has also undergone a complete transformation for the sake of the maenad. It was originally sketched as a cactus, made up of full-bodied oval shapes, but its importance was reduced to secure a dominant effect for the central nude figure. (Incidentally, the macnad is not at the geometric center of the picture, but a little to the left of it; the balance has been subtly restored by the insertion of the goat at the right.)
The non-naturalistic coloring, especially of the figures, follows a severe canon of relatively few tones, in keeping with the monumental character of the picture. Predominant are the dclft blue of the sea and sky, which also appears in the upper bodies of the flute-players and in the nude, and the complementary yellow of the sand and, particularly, the large sail. Next to these colors the eye is chiefly attracted by the chocolate brown of the maenad's hair and veil, which also appears in conjunction with olive green in the bodies of the figures at the right, and by the red of the centaur's forelegs. The surface is for the most part shiny; the color arrangement brings into relief the triangular structure of the composition, which is similar to that of Guernica. The sides of the triangle are reinforced by black planes.
" Antibes" stands for more than a specific style or period. It is the symbol of a frame of mind, of a new approach to ancient imaginary themes. The prophetic nightmares of the pre-war years have given way to mythological daydreams, in which the imagination is populated with antique beings in the glimmering southern light. Although the twentiethcentury painter's mythology—his centaurs, nymphs, and satyrs—are not generated by an instinctive conception of the world, but by an intellectual act, he draws on the same unconscious layers of the soul as the ancients who conjured up these magic figures. Picasso's large and small works produced in the fall of 1946, which seem like a garland of flowers around La joie de vivre, embody his longing for and faith in a simple, earthy life. Nothing in these works reminds us of man's predicament in a technological age; everything in them is eloquent of happiness: men, women, and animals are shown enjoying themselves and each other, united in a divine enthusiasm which includes all instincts and passions. Any of these works could legitimately be entitled "Joy of Living."
The triptych reproduced on page 275 consists of three panels, each the same size as La joie de vivre. It shows a satyr, a leaping young goat, and a centaur with a trident on his shoulders, drawn with the brush in bold, monumental outline on a white ground, where we can still discern vestiges of older studies. The rhythmic flow of the faun's playing, the young goat's graceful capers, and the centaur's overflowing vitality are expressed with great simplicity and clarity. With the same powerful and fully controlled sweeps of the brush Picasso later drew figures in white oil paint on the glass panes of the large showcases between two rooms of the Antibes museum. The same motifs recur, warmer, more idyllic, and more tender, in small-sized pencil drawings. One of these shows 'a faun peacefully playing his flute while his beloved and a slender young goat listen to him intently.
Another drawing, more animated, joyful, and rapturous, shows a family of centaurs trying to catch doves.
In the representations of these godlike creatures music and games acquire an almost sacred quality. Paganism, which has been confined to museums, has come to life again, so simple in its pristine freshness that it even has a popular appeal. As Picasso himself said, "This time at least I knew that I was working for the people." In 1947 he executed an etching representing the birth of the last centaur at Piraeus. The naïve story of this centaur, whose mother died while giving birth to him, and whose aggrieved father descended to the underworld, is told here concisely in the language of pictures.
The same group of bucolic motifs includes what is perhaps Picasso's profoundest and noblest representation of an animal—the four-foothigh painting of a goat in repose against a white background. The figure is actually a line drawing; only the fore-part of the body is done in gray paint. The forms and the spirit of this animal are rendered so lovingly that they seem to reveal to us a secret of nature; in this respect, this goat is superior even to the magnificent aquatint illustrations for Buffon's Histoire naturelle. The work which concludes the Antibes period is the colossal mythological painting Ulysses, which was done in 1947. This tall canvas composed of three panels, each measuring 98½ by 47¼ inches, shows Ulysses' ship tossed on the waves; demonic figures lurk behind the sail, and the wild magnificence of the sea is rendered in blue and green tones.
The reawakened, sensuous orientation of Picasso finally produced a considerable number of still lifes, some of them of great delicacy, at Antibes. Here, too, the monumental note is present; it appears most convincingly in the Still Life with Knife, measuring 37½ by 69 inches, and painted in vigorous colors on grained wood. The Cubist spatial structure of this painting resembles the later of the two Reclining Nudes, which is also painted on grained wood. The melon at the center, on a table of dull yellow, is also central as regards coloring, with its triad of green, orange, and black. The surrounding planes are black and gray against a violet and brown background. The glass beside the melon, and a couple of small lemons above it, enrich the composition by a luminous blue and a yellow green.
Still larger, but more delicate in its effect because of the light, ethereal treatment, is a still life showing a fish with a pitcher, bottle, and fruit. The graceful oriental, apparently metallic, pitcher (Picasso represented it in several works) is, in its flexibility and decorativeness, particularly characteristic of this period. The coloring, without strong accents, is nuanced in beige-rose, blue-gray, and greenish tones. Its flatness, transparency, and cheerful effect are in marked contrast to the Still Life with Blood Sausage, which Picasso painted during the war in the somber black-gray-white scale of Guernica. The sinister quality of the objects—the slippery coils of sausage, the menacing point of the knife—and the somber mood of the gloomy atmosphere refer, according to Picasso himself, to Philip II. And his comparison of the forks and knives protruding from the drawer, with poor souls in purgatory, is a valuable aid to our understanding of the picture. Here, expressionistic forces originating in dark regions were at work—and it was only at the Côte d'Azur that the last shadow of these forces was dispelled.
The small still life compositions Picasso painted at Antibes are free from all such obsessions, and their colors are as cheerful as they are sophisticated. Most of the pictures are of horizontal format and show silvery blue fishes with green lemons, or iridescent cuttlefish. The luster of the enamel-like paint occasionally reminds us of ceramic glazes. Of outstanding coloristic beauty is the tall, narrow Still Life with Vase and Three Sea Urchins. Here the brown and orange sea urchins are set off against the white and gray tablecloth. Branches with violet and blue leaves, and one salmon-pink flower rise from a dark-green vase which serves as a transition to the sea urchins. The light background is alternately blue-gray and pale yellow. The surface of this picture directly Simulates the fluidity of a glaze.
Pablo Picasso, Cubism, Pablo Picasso Biography, Picasso Paintings, Picasso Drawings, The Blue Nude, Don Quixote, Enamel Saucepan, Evening Flowers, Femme A La Fleur, Les Demoiselles d'Avignon, Spanish Art, The Dream, The Pigeons, Guernica, Musse, Bull with Bullfighter, Mediterranean Landscape, Nude and Still Life, Toros y Toreros, Mother and Child, Girl with Red Beret, Frau Mit Turban, The Bathers, The Lesson, The Old Guitarist, Three Bathers, Violin and Guitar, Lovers, Evening Flowers, The Kitchen
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